The Church of Scientology is reported to have purchased the former old national school site in Ballivor for use as the location for a controversial drug rehabilitation centre.
The site already has planning permission for a nursing home development. It was sold by the parish some years back following the opening of the new school across the road from the site, and has since been sold again.
Concerns have been raised in the village that the development, beside the local community centre and gardens, is to house the organisation’s Narconon programme, an expensive substance-abuse rehabilitation programme.
Among those who have raised concerns is Fine Gael councillor for the Trim area, Cllr Noel French, who says that such a move would need a change of use planning application, which he will be objecting to.
American science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard founded scientology in 1953, and the Church of Scientology has often been compared to a cult. Its Hollywood supporters have included actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta.
In October this year, the organisation, which has no charitable or religious status in Ireland, and is a registered company, opened a massive 1,100 seater conference centre in Firhouse, Dublin, and last year, opened a ‘national affairs office’ at Merrion Square in Dublin.
In June 2016, the former primary school in Ballivor came on the market with CBRE, with a half-built nursing home development on the site.
The school building was refurbished and extended to accommodate a modern 15-bedroom nursing home, while on an adjoining 2.26-acre site, some foundations have been laid for a 41-bedroom extension.
CBRE was asking €1 million for the ‘Raspberry Wood Nursing Home’ site. The agents are understood to have sold it to another agent, acting for a client.
Cllr French believes it would need a change-of-use planning application to become an addiction rehabilitation centre.
“I could be objecting to that on a number of grounds,” he states. “I would not be happy that what many have described as a cult being present in our community and I will do what I can to prevent it coming into our community,” he says.
“I believe in everyone having their own religious freedom but cults are something else. I understand that what the scientologists want to use the building for is a substance rehabilitation centre.”
“Again, no problem with those who fall on hard times and I am actually on the board of such a centre, but Ballivor is not the place for such a centre. It is too lsolated and too small for any hope of recovering addicts to re-integrate into society.”
While a number of European countries have recognised scientology as a religion, Belgium recently tried to outlaw the organisation as a criminal one after a 20-year investigation, but failed.
The Church of Scientology’s media relations department in Dublin has been contacted by the Meath Chronicle but has not commented on the reported Ballivor purchase.